Do you live overseas and receive Social Security? Are you aware your payment could be cut off next February if you haven’t filed Proof of Life?
I found out about this last year when our then Warden, Rick Griffith, dropped by a party to give us the scoop. Right here in Panama about 500 people had just been cut off and he wanted to make sure all the people in his district knew what was happening.
As a concerned citizen, you are no doubt properly outraged at the thought of Social Security fraud. Well, right now, so is the Social Security Administration. And one step they are taking to prevent it from happening among deceased expats is to make sure they aren’t. So they want to be sure you are alive before they send your check.
Why, is obvious. Why it can happen is not so obvious. It seems that the US does not now recognize foreign death certificates. Whether it ever did, I do not know, but right now it does not. In order for a US citizen to be officially dead on foreign soil, the US Embassy on that soil has to file paperwork back home to the effect. This leaves a lovely, easy loophole for the dishonest, and so some folk continue collecting for those who have already slipped their mortal coils in fact, but not on paper.
Enter the Proof of Life, form 7162. Now, if you rush to the link and get one this instant, you will see nothing on the form that obviously states “Yes! I hearby swear I live!” or anything remotely similar. I have often called tardy friends and demanded “Are you still alive?” but I guess it must be rude for a government agency to do that. I guess the “proof” you are alive lies in the act of completing the paperwork and filing it with the correct authorities.
If you are in good odor with the SSA, you can expect to receive said form or a request to fill it out every two years. This is said to arrive by mail in May or June. If your social security number ends in 00-49, then yours comes in even years. If it ends in 50- 99, then you will get it in odd years. You have pretty much until the end of that year to fill it out and get it back to SSA.
That’s plenty of time to lose the form or forget to do it.
And then, in, probably, February of the following year, your check will go up in poof.
I can hear you – I’ve heard it dozens of times. “But I have direct deposit and my check goes right into a bank in the US.” That’s nice for you, and you can keep it that way, but the SSA STILL wants your current PHYSICAL location and the form. It is, most unfortunately, THE LAW. So…
Lots of us live from check to check, so the three to six months of red-tape and panic while your payment is reinstated will very likely not be welcome. As I said, last year over 500 people here in Panama got cut off. It’s much easier to just be proactive and fill the thing out, then take it or mail it to the ACS Unit at your Embassy. If you have been out of the country for over six months, THE LAW applies to you. Sorry.
Just two simple things.
(1) Social Security wants to know WHERE you are physically and that you are alive. So they ask for a mailing address in your country of residence. If there’s no local delivery and you haven’t got a PO Box or whatever, no problem, darling. Just give the particulars of the local post office with “General Delivery” as your address. For example, if you live in, say Playa Uverito, where there is no Post Office, then you use closest one, which is in Las Tablas. Your address would be something like this:
Las Tablas, Los Santos
Republic of Panama
But not quite.
GO INTO the Post Office and confirm that. The postal folk will tell you how something sent to you should be properly addressed, which may include your cell phone number (so they can call you and let you know something has arrived for you). Since they are going to be receiving your love correspondence with the SSA, they may also want a bit more information, including (probably) a copy of your passport and your physical address (as close as you can get it). As a point of interest, your electric bill probably has a good address on it, if your situation isn’t Number-Street-City friendly.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to use the address you give Social Security for anything except communications from them. Just remember to check periodically. Unless you raise some kind of dust, you’ll probably ever only hear from them each December, regarding your payments for the following year.
(2) The second thing the SSA wants from you is a signed Proof of Life form, in which you swear you are a US citizen and other facts pertaining to whether or not they should pay you.
That’s it. Apparently, if you can manage to have an address in your country of residence and fill out a form, you are officially still alive and they will keep those checks and letters coming.